Developing courses under restrictions


Since the start of the new term, I keep meeting my former students in the corridor and almost all of them are saying “It’s too hard”, “There are so many assessments” or “It’s so hard compared to last term”. Then I’ll enter my office and tutors will say “Did you teach so and so last term? They’re always on their phone/not listening/ not completing home tasks…”. The list goes on. Generally the students in question were fine the term before: certainly not perfect, but engaged and participating.

This has led me to thinking that perhaps the course that I’m teaching on (language only), isn’t really preparing the students for their main courses (pre-university courses: Foundation, Diploma and Pre-Masters). I’ve chatted to a few of the language and skills teachers who teach on the main courses, I’ve spoken to the programme leader and senior tutor for the main language programmes and the conclusion that I’ve come to is that the gap between the language only and main terms is just too great.

This is obviously not going to help the students preform as well as they could if the course led into each other, so over the coming weeks (and probably months!), I’ll be looking into where the gap can be closed. The challenge (there had to be one!) is that the language only term follows a set text. This means I’ll have to see where the links can be squeezed in. I’ll also have to try and align it with their assessments and will have limited resources.

My current action plan is

  • to review the current teaching provision (in terms of hours, assessments, parts of the book that lend themselves to adaptation and linking to main programmes)
  • to determine what can be included in the changes (i.e. links to programme; assessment types; tasks within the classroom.
  • review the summer mini project with Business and language only
  • to meet with the Programme Leaders to see what they think is needed
  • arrange for subject tutors to observe language only sessions and advise what could help
  • arrange for language tutors to visit subject classes
  • create sessions that involve subject materials/vocabulary
  • trial the materials
  • gain feedback from the students

Looking at the list it’ll probably take me more than 1 term (terms are 12 weeks) to gather all the information and create something that can be taught. I’m quite looking forward to the challenge.


About sarahali

I am linguist working in the EFL field. I started my teaching career in East Germany in 1997, continuing for a while (7 years) in Austria before settling back in the UK, where I am now based. I have taught English in various forms (ESP, ESOL, Business English, EFL (general) and EAP) to students ranging from 3 years of age to 80. I have written, developed and edited teaching material and curricular for the Arabic speaking world, as well as African countries. I have also written materials and teacher's books for 3-year olds learning in multi-lingual schools in Spain and have worked on translating and adapting Early Readers for the international market. I'm currently a senior tutor for EAP, a TEL coordinator and an academic proofreader. I also work as a freelance materials writer and developer. I speak English, German and French, with a basic knowledge of Arabic and Spanish.
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